Android One: How Google's budget smartphone for India compares with its rivals

Lynsey Barber
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Google is targeting emrging markets with the Android One (Source: Google)

Google has launched its first Android One smartphone in India - a budget device aimed at enticing the “next billion” smartphone users in the country and other emerging markets.

Google’s initiative aims to create cheap, high-quality smartphones for those in countries where incomes are lower and devices less affordable.

Android One offers a package of different options such as battery life, camera type and Android software to hardware makers who can then decide on features like picking off a menu. Google has standardised these processes for making the phones, thus reducing the cost.

The first device will go on sale priced at $100 (£62) and is made by Indian manufacturer Micromax.

The scheme is also expected to be rolled out in other emerging markets including Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka with more manufacturers on board, including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic and Xolo.

The lure of India for Google is understandable- there’s a lot of room for growth in emerging markets.

The mobile market in India

The country has a population of over a billion, with 32 per cent of them mobile subscribers, according to GSMA Intelligence.

The market for smartphones in India grew 84 per cent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year with 18.42 million shipments.

The smartphone market makes up a smaller 30 per cent share of all mobile phone shipments compared to cheaper feature phones with a 71 per cent share.

This lower-cost segment also grew by more than 80 per cent in the same quarter, according to IDC research - however the research firm predicts the entry of cheaper smartphone makers such as Mozilla, and now Google, will increase the low end of the smartphone market even more.

Here’s how the smartphone market is growing.

The Android One is more affordable than other Android devices as well as those running iOS, Windows and Blackberry, however it’s not quite as cheap as Mozilla’s entry into the budget market with the Intex Cloud at £33.

On a handset level, however, the Android One has competition from existing devices in the Indian market.

Samsung, the market leader in the country, has two main models priced under the $150 mark. The Android One is sandwiched between them.

The cheapest smartphones and feature phones from Indian makers are made by Micromax, Karbonn and Lava - all outperform Android One when it comes to affordability, as does Mozilla’s budget device.

Google however says Android One is not designed just to get a smartphone in people’s hand

The Android One aims to offer better quality devices to consumers in emerging markets - so, processing power, high-quality cameras, expandable storage, and features specific to the Indian market such as dual SIM cards, a replaceable battery and FM radio are built in.

Google has also partnered with telecoms company Airtel to offer free data and is creating customised apps specifically for the Indian market.

Where other Android devices are able to be highly customised by manufacturers so each looks different, the Android One isn't, so it can maintain performance and standards across the lower-priced phones.

Android’s Sundar Pichai said: “We not only want to help people get online, we want to make sure that when they get there, they can tap into the wealth of information and knowledge the web holds for everyone.”

Google doesn't want Android One to be the cheapest smartphone in India, it wants it to be the best - and still affordable.

Chart notes: Calculations based on World Bank income per capita data. Market share data from IDC.

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